How can cheesemakers stand out in a crowded market full of claims about freshness and clean labels? Two Wisconsin cheesemakers have followed different paths.

BelGioioso Cheese, Green Bay, worked with Women’s Marketing of Westport, Conn., to launch a multichannel marketing campaign this spring that spanned magazine, television, and digital and social media advertising, centered around custom content.

Meantime, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, Waterloo, has gained a couple of public relations bumps in the past few months, with an in-depth profile that aired April 27 on the PBS show “Wisconsin Foodie” and three awards in July at the 2017 Wisconsin State Fair.

BelGioioso followed a multichannel advertising strategy

BelGioioso used a television campaign with 15- and 30-second commercials, print advertising in both trade and consumer publications with tie-in consumer events, and digital advertising with a recipe campaign to educate consumers about its heritage, passion, quality and artisan cheesemaking methods, said Oscar Villarreal, vice president of marketing.

The company sought to expand chef and consumer awareness beyond its best-known fresh mozzarella cheese to other varieties including Parmesan, Provolone, Romano, Asiago, mascarpone, gorgonzola and ricotta con latte, he said. 

“We have total control over our entire process of cheesemaking and into our converting, marketing and distribution,” Villarreal said. “Our message is pure and is conveyed directly from our owner and cheesemakers into our TV commercials.”

BelGioioso stands out due to its authentically and passion, he said. 

“Consistent quality and attention to details in our cheesemaking and aging processes and also in our milk supply, converting, packaging, distribution and customer service — these are all very important to our success,” Villarreal adds. “And the people behind the details are what makes this all work.”

The PBS program ‘Wisconsin Foodie’ features Crave Brothers

During the Crave Brothers segment on “Wisconsin Foodie,” sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, president and co-owner George Crave gave program host Kyle Cherek a tour of the farm and its cheese facility. Crave said the program gave him the opportunity to tell the real story of how a dairy farm and cheesemaking facility operates.

“Some of the food shows and food editors like to romance everything to a fault,” he said. “There’s a reason for everything we do. We don’t go about anything whimsically, or haphazardly. Everything we do is science- and research-based. … We take research from universities and specialty cheesemakers and create what works for us in our terroir.” 

Three producers came with Cherek for a daylong tour, Crave said. 

“We showed them how we make our cheese and show we grow [feed] crops like corn, soybean, alfalfa and winter wheat,” he said. “I like to say it all starts in the field.” 

Debbie Crave, wife of George and company vice president, said the show aired nearly a year after the visit and they had wondered all along how the footage would be edited and what would be shown. 

“They did a really nice job,” she said. “There was a lot of material. You have to give them credit.”

The program [watch the episode here] covered how the operation is run on clean renewable energy, which is part of how Crave tries to stand out. The cheesemaker does not go after claims like organic or non-GMO, Debbie Crave said. 

“We’re always struggling to be one of many in the world of specialty food products,” she said. “If you look at our label, you see a little green label with a cow, a trademark we developed to promote our clean energy story.”

Crave will stand out a bit more thanks to three awards won this summer at the Wisconsin State Fair Cheese and Butter Contest: first place in the Soft Spreadable Cheese category for its mascarpone, and second-place finishes in Mozzarella (for fresh mozzarella) and Flavored Soft Cheese (for marinated fresh mozzarella).

While the company hasn’t measured any bump in sales thanks to the “Wisconsin Foodie” appearance, Debbie Crave said there have been anecdotal indications of greater awareness. “At the flooring store, they said, ‘Oh, I saw you on Wisconsin Foodie,’ ” she said.